For our second meeting I had set the text ‘Looking Around: Where We Are, Where We Could Be’ by Lucy R. Lippard, published in Mapping The Terrain, New Genre Public Art, Edited by Susan Lacy. This is a book that I revisit often and a staple in the MA Socially Engaged Practice. Although written in the 1990s, it still has resonance today and has personal significance because it really made me understand my artistic practice as one of place – incorporating both physical environments and lived experience.

I was curious about how the group would find this leap into theory and they admitted that they found it challenging – however, this didn’t deter anyone from making connections between the text and their local experiences.

Hi-lights of the discussion:

It really made me think about what we are doing as a piece of art, how the Turnpike is about us as people, it’s an idea as much as it’s a building.

I thought I might skim-read the text, but I had to spend some time with it, to understand what might be meant by terms such as ‘cultural democracy’, it did in-fact stimulate a lot of thought… I was trying to relate it to Leigh and there are incredible achievements and meaningful stuff all around us, it just depends, in a way, how you look at it, or if you see it. So even though I thought the text was hard work, it had a lot to say that was relevant.

I was thinking about the markers around Leigh, I see a lot of public monuments that are in remembrance of war, the obelisks etc… Also, thinking about what we see on windows now, what the kids are doing, it’s right and front of us and it’s pretty powerful.

Perhaps through this project we will start being more mindful, start seeing things that we wouldn’t normally see – I live behind a garage, so they make all kinds of interesting sounds and it’s just a man working on a car, but I hear music in it. I was also thinking, because I have mobility issues – it’s not about the distance, but being present, even in your own house, you are using your senses.

It made me think about how this walking project is art. The things that I hi-lighted in the text were to do with senses, a sense of place, sharing with each other, people and a feeling of community – which resonated with me again, it cemented everything together for me. I walk for my mental health and I’ve thought about using mindfulness and my senses, but what this has really made me think about is concentrating on one sense at a time.

This made me stop and think about collective narratives, why do we appreciate where we live? How do we feel about it? What changes have we made? What changes would you make?

It’s not elite and hidden away from public view, participants are attracted from all sides of life. That made me think about the Turnpike, that it’s about a community; bringing people together through art.

I just let my mind think and be stimulated by what was written and it brought me to all kinds of things, I went right back to my childhood and to the houses in the field where I live, where I grew up, there used to be hares and Lapwings, but now there’s too many people, too many dog walkers. And the articles says that art shouldn’t be about the historical, but in a way, the historical can be very personal and speak to people.

It makes me think about what it means to be indigenous and the native folks really believed in animals and had totems, the hare is sort of a totem for you, remembering the animals of your childhood.

You’re making me think – in the article, she talks about change without progress and in a way, you do need a sense of place in time, it does alter your perspective. It’s not just a case of reminiscing about certain things, it opens up questions, why aren’t Lapwings here anymore? Is it progress or not? What was built where those hares live? What would you rather have?

I think that in some ways we have progress, but there are other things we still need to work on and this platform makes sense to me because it is like a democratisation, because most people who wouldn’t usually talk about art can find a way to connect to it.